When the Zoom camera opens, I’m greeted by the welcome sight of new mom Patrice Tucker-Nunez and a very adorable costar: her 3-month-old son Jackson, nestled and sleeping in his baby carrier.
“One thing that’s important to us is to be able to travel still and go places around the neighborhood still and fold him into our lives as much as possible, rather than having him fold us into his,” Patrice says.
It’s an important distinction for Patrice and her wife Rebecca Tucker-Nunez (or Becca, as Patrice calls her). The Los Angeles-based couple both work in the entertainment industry, and were always down for a spontaneous trip or adventure around L.A. and San Francisco. Being the first of their friends to have kids, Patrice jokes it was hard for her friends to accept the fact they were making such an enormous change until Jackson showed up.
Patrice and Becca always knew they wanted to be moms, but lockdown gave them an opportunity to “be still” and think through how they would start their family.
“We were very used to doing our own thing, and it was very much about us,” Patrice says now. “I think I was excited and ready for it to be about somebody else, honestly. I don’t know that I would’ve done it had it not been for the pandemic. Also…we figured we’d never have this much time on our hands again.”
They interviewed known donors from Co-Parents.com and chose someone they liked based on his personality, background, and education. But after trying to get pregnant through intrauterine insemination (IUI) for six months, Patrice and Becca decided to pivot to IVF.
In the process, the donor’s sperm would be injected into one of Patrice’s eggs in the hopes of forming an embryo that would then be inserted in her womb to carry into a healthy pregnancy.
“I’m 11 years older than my wife—I am 42—and we always knew that I was going to carry,” she says.
But out of the seven eggs her doctor was able to retrieve, Patrice was shocked to learn that none of them were viable.
“It was a possibility,” she says now, “but we didn’t think about the fact that it might not work.”
As fate would have it, Becca’s period was starting the next day. Without thinking, Patrice asked her to jump in.
“We had NOT talked about it beforehand,” she says. “It just came out of my mouth.”
Becca didn’t even think twice. They were able to retrieve 42 eggs from her, fertilize 37, and the embryo they implanted in Patrice turned into a healthy pregnancy with Jackson.
“We wanted a family,” Becca explains. “We were both willing to do whatever it took to make it.”
“Our journey to get there was complex,” Patrice adds. “And our journey after having him was a little intense as well.”
Born with respiratory issues, Jackson was immediately whisked to the NICU, where he stayed for a week and a half.
“I saw him for 30 seconds after he was born, so not being able to put my hands on him was terrifying and the saddest thing I had ever done,” she says.
Soon after, Patrice was hospitalized due to high blood pressure. Having a newborn in the NICU with her wife, while isolated in a hospital room was not something she had prepared for.
But even though she was isolated, she wasn’t alone. She had her village, which expanded to include the medical team the new family relied on heavily during both Jackson and Patrice’s hospital stays.
“It’s hard since we don’t have our family nearby, so it’s really good to have our framily to really depend on out here,” she says of their friends and chosen family.
Patrice Tucker-Nunez’s village
Becca is the most supportive partner I could have ever asked for. She is my best friend and the love of my life. She’s also the calming force in our family, which was really imperative during Jackson’s medical emergencies. He got discharged from the NICU and my wife had to leave and go home with him. His first night at home was with Becca.
She’s also my biggest cheerleader: supporting my difficult breastfeeding journey, and my journey to finding peace with my postpartum body and self. She’s always the date planner and dance partner when we have to come up with quick choreography and songs to keep Jackson entertained
Dr. Marc Kalan
The moment we met Dr. Kalan and his nursing staff, we were like “Oh yeah, we can do this with their help.”
It seems like a big, hard deal, IVF. [But] they made [that process] as painless as it could’ve possibly been. Everything was laid out for us before it started, we had no questions going into any procedures. We never felt like we were by ourselves, even though we were very much isolated during the process [because of the pandemic].
They allowed Becca to come in to see and hear his first heartbeat, even though COVID restrictions weren’t really allowing spouses to attend. I guess our situation was different because they were doing procedures on both of us. They were just really thoughtful about the process being more difficult during this time.
If we were going to do it again, they would be part of the reason why—because we know how easy they would make it for us.
We’re still in contact: We’re actually supposed to go take Jackson to see him for the first time since he was born. And we have a nurse there, Marabell, who is the most amazing, kind, caring person.
Dr. Ayana Walden, OBGYN
Jackson had respiratory issues when he was born. Dr. Walden acted so quickly and called the PEDS team immediately. Six doctors and nurses worked on him and took him to the NICU while she finished taking care of me.
It was important for me to feel comfortable during care and delivery to have a female physician of color. She was so thoughtful about when she sent me to other providers to always offer options so that I felt comfortable with them as well.
Dr. Walden is a straight shooter, which I truly appreciate when it comes to my healthcare. She was also very thoughtful about our situation: two moms, conceiving through IVF, my age. I always felt safe and well cared for, and knew she’d always look out for my best interests.
When I was readmitted to the hospital those couple of times due to my blood pressure, even though she could tell I was desperate to get home and be with my wife and new baby, she would not let me out of her care until they were certain that they’d found the right combinations of medications and i would not land back at the ER or worse.
She is the only person I would want caring for me if we decided to have baby number two!
Jackson’s Medical Village
We had a lactation consultant in the NICU [at Cedars] who was a magical human being. She was so helpful. His current lactation consultant suggested that we check him for all the things that could go wrong, tongue ties and all of that stuff. He did actually have a tongue tie corrected, so his pediatric dentist was so lovely and wonderful as well. We just recently decided to let [breastfeeding] go and not punish ourselves any longer. But he’s happy and he’s healthy, and we’re all happy and healthy.
He has a pediatric chiropractor as well. He hates laying down on his back unless it’s [with] her and she’s doing a little baby adjustment. He just melts into the table and then sleeps the whole rest of the day, it’s like his happy place.
Mykol and Todd Okimura Strelitz (Jackson’s Godfathers)
I met my wife at work. [Mykol] also worked at the same place and [all of us were] instant best friends. He got married right around the time we did and his husband is also just the most amazing person ever. We’ve known them for eight years.
They came over to make us dinner. Jackson kind of stirred in his bassinet and they were both up and running over to him like, “Sit down, finish your meal. We get to eat uninterrupted all the time, so you have a minute.” I was like, “I appreciate that!”
Gail and Charles Tucker
My parents, as soon as they found out we were pregnant, literally purchased three-quarters of the things on our registry. It’s really been a blessing.
[They] came for three weeks when he was born, from Virginia, and they basically demanded we leave them and let them babysit. I’m like, “He’s new to us too! He’s only four weeks old. We don’t want to leave him!”
But we did. We went out and had dinner.
[Jackson’s] their first [grandchild] and they’re so far away, they’re gonna miss a lot of stuff and it will be really sad. So we’ll have to really make an effort to go out there as much as we can.
We FaceTime them every day for bathtime moments, or just for them to check in.
Myra and Manny Nunez
Rebecca’s parents have been completely supportive, sending Jackson clothes and toys. They’re actually in San Diego, so that’s not terribly far. They have been to visit once and we are headed to San Diego this weekend to see them again. Her dad is obsessed with Jackson. It’s very sweet to watch them interact.
We never got to take a honeymoon—not a big one anyway, we did a little staycation. But we’re talking about next year maybe dropping Jackson off in San Diego for a week and going away away, if the world is opened up by then. But it’s nice to know that they’re that close.
I have a best friend in Denver who actually just decided to go through the IVF process as well, [she’s a] single mother by choice. She just came to visit Jackson, and we got to talk [about] all things pregnancy and do our first exchange of hand-me downs.
She’s also having a little boy, so it will be nice that we can kind of commiserate and talk about, “Ahh, what do we do with this penis?” That’s been the weirdest thing. We’re like, we don’t know what to do with this!
Our friend Jacki and her family ran to our home to get our puppy when we went into labor.
We got a special [finger biometric] lock installed at 36 weeks so Jacki could get in and get our puppy. Then five days later, when we were able to come home, she brought our puppy back over to us so she could meet Jackson.
Little did all of us know she would have to come back to get the puppy the next day due to my being readmitted to the hospital for high blood pressure. She kept our pup for about two weeks total. What a lifesaver.
Jacki is a mom of two brilliant girls and has so far been the only person besides family that we’ve left Jackson with so that we could have a little mom date.
Erick has been so supportive of us during this time. Erick is a friend of Becca’s from Vegas, turned family; they went to high school together and he lives just down the street now. We can always depend on him for sure.
He gives the most thoughtful gifts. He’s been really thoughtful about baby books that are culturally very diverse and found the only Filipino children’s books in the world for Jackson so he can have those in his library.
(From left to right: Kit, Patrice, Vita, Lori, Danni)
Vita Rosenthal, Danni Conner, Lori Boland, and Kit Smythe
We have four neighbors that kind of adopted us as soon as we moved in. It’s like the most amazing thing.
Danni down the hallway is always there to give us advice.
Kit Smythe, I don’t know if you recognize the name, was the original Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. She’s amazing, she’s there, too. And Laurie is our apartment manager.
There’s a stairway down at the end of the hall by Vita and the movers had to move our bed up because it was too big to get on the elevator. She just happened to hear them, so she opened her door so they could swing our furniture into her apartment and then in the hallway. And it was just like, love at first neighborly moment. We have been inseparable since then.
She is Jewish and shares with us all of the high holidays. Even during the pandemic, when we hardly knew her, we took a table out into the hallway. She read Hebrew to us, then the translation, and we just celebrated all of the holidays. We were all masked. She has been there for us through the whole pregnancy and even after Jackson was born. We know that she is just our go-to. She calls to check on us every day.
The four of them came knocking on our door while we were pregnant. We were not able to have a big baby shower or anything like that since the pandemic times, but the four of them came to our door with all these presents to help us celebrate. They’re just always checking in on us and always letting us know they are here for us if we need anything.
We’re gonna want to buy a house soon, but I will be devastated the day that we have to leave these wonderful women.
Thank you for introducing us to your village, Patrice! Check out this link to see as more moms share their village with us every month.